Booker T. Washington delivered a speech that came to be known as the "Atlanta Compromise" in 1895, to a largely white audience. The speech was known as a compromise because Washington felt that blacks and whites needed each other to prosper in the South. Washington was sometimes criticized for his "accommodationist" views of keeping African Americans still primarily separate from white people, as evidenced through his statement that black people can be as "separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand." Washington did hold southern whites accountable for the economic situation of blacks in the South. He requested that, instead of seeking to fill jobs through immigrants, white southerners should look no further than their black neighbors.
During his speech, Washington said, "It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities." In this statement, Washington encouraged African Americans to be proud of the work they performed regardless of the social status of that work. In his words, "there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem." Washington urged African Americans to earn respect through hard work, not through social agitation.